Interviewing: Telling Your Story
Congratulations! Your resume landed you the interview- now your challenge is to tell your story in an engaging and professional manner, showing your interviewer that you are a great fit. Remember that the interview process starts long before you walk in the door. Think of interviewing as a three step process:
Prepare: Do your homework- research the company and know yourself well. Be able to articulate your strengths, interests, your short term and long term goals. Practice as much as possible before the interview and have insightful questions ready to ask at the end of the interview.
Interview: This is your opportunity to show that you not only have the qualifications to do the job, but that you will be a strong fit for the position. A good interview is less of an interrogation and more of a conversation. Be ready to communicate a strong message about your skills and work style.
Follow-up: Make notes after your conversation, and always send a professional thank you note to everyone you met with that day.
Create connections between your past experience and the position you are applying to. How have they prepared you for this job?
Take a moment to consider what the interviewer is asking, and to ask for clarification if needed.
Prove it- Always give a concrete example of what you’re talking about. Anyone can say they are hard-working, or work well under pressure.
Stay focused. Tie everything in to the job, and try to keep your answers clear and structured.
Maintain eye contact and watch your body language.
Dress professionally- for most Columbia students a suit would not be expected (and may look out of place), but you should still look polished and professional. See the links below for a helpful guide to creative interview attire.
Ask about the timeline for making a decision. Then you know at what point you should follow up.
Give one word answers or say “I don’t know.” Take a minute if you feel stumped, but always give a response.
Speak badly of a former supervisor, coworker, or job. They may wonder if personality conflicts will be an issue in the future.
Give clichéd answers. Don’t say that your biggest weakness is that you care too much, or work too hard. This will be transparent. Responses should be you, but polished.
Ask about salary. This is seen as presumptuous and should wait until you have an offer.
Talk excessively! You should be doing most of the talking, but avoid taking over the interview.
Behavioral Interviewing is becoming a popular approach- the premise being that past success predicts future success. These questions will be phrased in the form of “tell me about a time,” or “describe a situation…” You will need to give strong, concrete examples, and be sure that your responses are structured in a strong manner. The STAR technique can be a good way to stay on topic- describe the Situation, your Task, the Action you took, and the Result.
Talking About Your Work
If you are in a visually based field (photography, graphic design, etc), your portfolio presentation IS your interview. Be prepared to discuss your work – what you’re proud of, how you approached certain pieces, and what you think you can improve on. Consider scheduling with a Portfolio Center staff member to get experience talking about your work.
Even if a portfolio is not required for your industry, it can be helpful to bring samples of your work with you to the interview. Introduce them at a natural point in the conversation or offer to leave them behind- either way, only bring your best work along. It can be icing on the cake if it’s good, but be sure everything is polished and brief.
Would U hire U?
This interactive activity lets you view potential answers to common interview questions.
Quint Careers: Thank You Notes
A well-crafted thank you email makes a big impact after an interview. This site has examples you can adapt to fit your tone and industry.